The UK Ministry of Justice Friday announced domestic abusers who kill their partners will face harsher sentences if the offender has a history of controlling behavior or violence towards the victim. The ministry announced new legislative measures to address domestic homicide, which include incorporating excessive violence and coercive control as aggravating factors in sentencing decisions for murder.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab stated:
The changes I am announcing today will mean longer jail sentences for those who kill women in the home, by taking greater account of the specific factors involved, whether it is controlling and coercive behaviour or cases involving particular savagery known as “overkill.”
The ministry will hold a public consultation to determine whether a higher starting-point sentence of 25 years should be applied to murder cases where there is a history of controlling or coercive abuse.
The government also requested that the Sentencing Council review the manslaughter sentencing guidelines to potentially impose longer jail sentences for deaths that occur during rough sex. The government has banned the “rough sex defense” under section 71 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, stating that a victim cannot consent to “the infliction of serious harm for the purposes of obtaining sexual gratification,” including instances where it results in death.
The new measures are designed to build upon the UK government’s zero-tolerance approach towards violence against women and girls. Recently, the government has provided additional funding to victim support sentences, stricter management of domestic abusers through management and protective orders, and strategic policing requirements to protect against domestic violence.
The reforms follow a 2021 independent review by Clare Wade KC, which found that one in four homicides in England and Wales are committed by a current or former partners or relatives of the victim. Over half of the murder cases reviewed involved controlling or coercive behavior. Another 60 percent involved excessive violence. Of those reviewed, all but one murder case was perpetrated by a man. The Wade review concluded that the UK’s current sentencing framework “does not adequately reflect that many domestic homicides are preceded by years of abuse,” and proposed reforms to reflect the seriousness of domestic homicides.
The UK government’s full response to the review, including the proposed 25-year starting point, will be published this summer.